Michael Cohen Had His ‘Knees Chopped Out’ on the Stand: Legal Analyst

Former Donald Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen had his “knees chopped out” by the defense on Thursday while on the stand, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said.

Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, has alleged that Trump forged financial documents in an attempt to conceal a hush money payment that Cohen made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election, denies that he had sexual relations with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony charges in the case.

Newsweek senior reporter Katherine Fung has been in the Manhattan courtroom following the former president’s trial and also noted the cross-examination moment. Trump attorney Todd Blanche brought up an October 24, 2016, phone conversation Cohen allegedly had with Trump through the phone of Keith Schiller, Trump’s longtime bodyguard. Cohen said in his testimony that they discussed Daniels, saying that the matter was resolved. Cohen then added that he did not remember if Trump was on speaker phone or if Schiller passed the phone directly to the former president.

“You did not talk to President Trump on that night, you talked to Keith Schiller about what we just went through!” Blanche said to Cohen, Newsweek’s Katherine Fung noted on X, as Blanche mentioned a text message that shows Cohen texted Schiller the phone number of a 14-year-old who was sending him harassing phone calls. Cohen said in his testimony on Thursday that he did talk about the teenager with Schiller, but that he also spoke to the former president about Daniels.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday speaks to the media as he leaves court during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City. Ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen on Thursday had his…

Honig said Blanche’s cross-examination of Cohen was “devastating,” as the alleged phone call Cohen had with Trump goes to “the heart of the allegation” against him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a star cooperating witness get his knees chopped out quite as clearly and dramatically as what just happened with Michael Cohen,” Honig said. “I’ve certainly seen very effective cross-examinations of cooperating witnesses. I’ve seen aspects of their story cut into and called into question, but this goes to the heart of the allegation here, that phone call on October 24. And it looks to the jury … that that was a devastating moment.”

Newsweek has reached out to Trump’s campaign via email and Cohen via X and email for comment on Thursday’s court proceedings.

But former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told Newsweek on Thursday when asked if this was a pivotal moment for the defense, “No, it probably was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable cross-examination, but I think this is an example of losing sight of the forest for the trees.”

McQuade continued: “We all misremember details of things that happened years ago, but we tend to remember the big picture matters. My bigger takeaway is that this is the cross-examination the prosecution likely expected. That’s why they saved Cohen for last, and previously showed the jury documents and provided the testimony of other witnesses so that they knew the story even before Cohen came in to testify. The value of his testimony was to provide context and to connect the dots, but otherwise, all the evidence was already there. No doubt in closing the government will agree that Michael Cohn is a despicable liar, but that this is who Donald Trump chose to associate with, and so that’s who’s left to tell his story. Whether this evidence is enough to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt will ultimately be up to the jury.”

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Florida also told Newsweek when asked about Cohen’s testimony, “I think prosecutors did enough to build a firewall around Michael Cohen to mostly insulate him from the expected attacks on his credibility. Cohen is an imperfect witness, but there has been enough corroboration for his core claims for a jury to reach a guilty verdict.”

Trump’s trial is set to resume on Monday with Cohen back on the stand.